Clayton Brothers Inside Out 09/11

Rob and Christian Clatyon introduced their first retrospective on Saturday night (09/11) at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum’s auditorium was filled to capacity by 7:30 pm, awaiting a talk between Rob, Christian and MMoCA’s executive director, Stephen Fleischman.

Wishy Washy installation detail and exterior painting

Rob and Christian jointly introduced the first Clayton Brothers retrospective “Inside Out” with childhood stories about family vacations spent in California. “California has a major influence on our work, as we were interested in the people with tattoos, punk music, skateboarding and the overall environment of the place. And as a place to live now, fuels our narrative and helps us create stories, characters and motivates us.”

Docent exchange and discussion with Steven Fleischman

Steven asked, “Talk about your past, commercial applications of your work to the your style of loosely woven narrative.”

Rob, Christian and Steven + Madison Fish Fry

Rob—“We grew up in a commercial art family. So much of what we do is about communication and we’re trying to articulate visually, a visual narrative.”

Christian—“Back then, to have something in print might cause someone to think. It was a voice we were comfortable with at the time, while taking advantage of the opportunity to put our own spin on it.”

Rob and Christian took turns articulating their journey from childhood, good and bad friendships and personal experiences while growing up in Colorado. Looking over to his parents, Christian described, ”My Mom was always telling us to get along and made sure that we took care of each other.” Obviously, both brothers have worked through personal challenges to create an impressive body of work that consistently delivers new and interesting characters, subject matter, color palette, surface techniques and scale.

Rob and Christian feed off of each other creatively, always surprising each other with the final outcome and often share two separate interpretations about their final pieces. Christian described, “It’s easy to collaborate with my brother.” Joining in, Rob added, “It is complete trust with each other. Our individual approaches add to the flavor of the work.” Christian then remarked, “There are times we have an intense exchange over ideas and the work, but if we are not having some type of disagreement we are not truly thinking.”

Six different gallery shows are represented on the main exhibition floor at the MMoCA exhibition including: Green Pastures (2001-2003), I come from here (2004-2005), Wishy Washy (2006-2007), Patient (2007-2008), As Is (2008-2009) and Jumbo Fruit (2009-2010). Each presented collection features highlights from each show and covers a range of topics including: developmentally disabled, the neighborhood Laundromat, emergency medical services, real estate dilemmas and oversized bowls of fruit.

Christian shared, “The work is a result with sharing conversations in the neighborhood. We find a lot in the mundane. We find a lot in the shopping mall, ordinary places and ordinary people. The title of our first book came from a visit to the mall and overhearing a elderly lady in a wheelchair and mention to her companion, ‘This is the most special day of my life.’”

Madison, WI

Referencing “Green Pastures,” which is inspired by their childhood friend Tommy, Rob added, “You kind of get an idea of what people are about in our paintings. Tommy would do what he wanted to do. Every Christmas Tommy showed up with a handful of firecrackers and set them off. Christian laughed, “Tommy would also go around to different restaurants in the neighborhood and add itching powder to the toilet paper.” And Rob reflecting again on Tim House, “It’s a sanctuary for the narration. When you go inside you kind of got an idea of what Tommy was talking about.” And the result? A significant body of work that greets visitors to the MMoCA collection as they enter.

This Will Help Them and Tim House details

Support of this exhibition was important to me on a personal level, as Rob and Christian Clayton have been huge supporters of my design, exhibition and publishing work over the past thirteen years. They have introduced me to an important artist community in Southern California and gracious with their guidance. Rob and Christian are genuine leaders in the fine art world and it is an honor to lend, “This Will Help Them” (from the series “Green Pastures”), on display until January 2, 2011.

“Inside Out” by Rob and Christian Clayton at the Madison, WI MMoCA museum provides a historic look at two brothers paintings side by side. Travel to Madison and witness three large gallery installations and 26 large-scaled paintings.

Reference Lab Installation details

Stephen Fleischman, museum director, learned about the Clayton Brothers through a generous donation of Tim House (In Green Pastures) by Howard and Judith Tullman. Fortunately for all of us, Stephen is now a fan and the Clayton Brothers retrospective at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art will be a huge success. And if you would like to learn more, please check out earlier posts about the Clayton Brothers, one and two.

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